Numerous reports of the Mechanics Institution events and committee members can be found in Harry Hopkins’ booklets covering the dates 1850 to 1900 (see General village/Reference documents/50 booklets by Harry Hopkins c2000).
Extract from Rode Major Misc 2 1855-1865
In 1859 there were discussions about creating a Mechanics Institute in Rode and in that year the plans came to fruition. The Institute was an educational club and was so named because in 1800 its founder brought together mechanics and engineers of Glasgow and gave them lectures on natural philosophy and other scientific subjects. In 1823 the idea was taken up in London for working men, clerks etc and it was not long before most towns had a club and quite a few villages too. In fact any place of social or commercial importance had its Mechanics Institute supported partly by members’ subscriptions and partly by contributions.
The Institute possessed a reading room, a lending library, a lecture room and educational classes. At one time or another Rode had all these facilities although at various times comments were made to the effect that the village did not appreciate or adequately use them. Working Men’s Clubs evolved from the Mechanics Institute and Rode had such a Club too – it was self-supporting and managed by working men. Its function was to provide and encourage decent recreation to the children of toil. What follows is the report on the official opening of the Rode Mechanics Institute on 17th February 1860:
“On Friday evening one of the most interesting meetings that has ever been held in this village assembled in the Temperance Hall to publicly inaugurate the Road Mechanic Institution a society which has recently been formed and which promises to have a very successful career. It certainly has commenced well the Reading Room which has been open for some months being as well or even better supplied than many similar rooms in large towns. The proceedings of Friday consisted of an admirably supplied tea to which about 150 persons sat down and did full justice and after a short interval during which the tables were removed the number was increased to about 260 literally cramming the Hall and we understand some scores of persons were unable to gain admission.
The Chair was occupied by the President of the Institution the Rev. A. Langley who spoke appropriately of the deep interest he felt in everything that concerned the welfare of his native village and of the sense of duty as well as of privilege which led him to do all in his power to give support to the Institution whose interests they had met to support. At intervals during the evening a party of musical friends with pianoforte, violins and violoncello accompaniment gave several choruses from some of the popular oratorios and a selection of other music all of which tended greatly to promote the cheerfulness of the entertainment. The leading feature was however the lecture by the Rev. S. Manning of Frome on “Japan and the Japanese” then which nothing could be more interesting or more highly appreciated by the audience. At the close a vote of thanks was proposed by Mr Happerfield and cordially adopted to the Chairman, the lecturers and musical friends and the ladies.”
At first the Mechanics Institute used the Temperance Hall for its major events, lectures, dinners and entertainment evenings, but after Mr. Silcocks built his Hall in Lower Street in 1866 this also was used.
It also had a Reading Room (referred to in 1860) for the use of members. An advertisement for the sale at auction on 26th Feb 1884 of a property owned by the late Mr Daniel Say (23/25 High Street) states:
“Having a frontage of 50 ft in which the business of a baker and grocer has for many years been carried on, and part of which is let to the committee of the Road Mechanics Institute.” Presumably this was the location of the Mechanics Institution reading room at that time.